Aveline gritted her teeth and pushed her small raft into the water. It was ice cold and bit into her skin, she knew she wouldn't grow accustommed to it. People said that so many times, "it's not so bad when you're in" but no, it always was so bad. It was some kind of human denial system, there were so many of those she thought. Like warm milk made you sleepy. If only the water was warm milk. It had started to reach deep into her limbs with a vengeance. She took a deep breath and shoved herself out from the bank.
It was the dead of the night and quiet like death. No birds made a sound and there was nothing moving among the reeds. It was even misty, just on the surface like life imitating a cliche. She could see quite clearly by the moon. Its light was thick like treacle, its rays not as stilted as usual. She had been right to leave tonight. It was the night to do it and there was a peace about it as if it was waiting for her. She didn't really believe in things like that, but if she did she would have been heartened. She hugged herself with long willowy arms and let herself drift for a while.
She wished she had worn more clothes. Without realising it earlier, she had actually chosen white drapey bedclothes because it seemed more romantic. She had pictured herself, a beautiful ghost like figure streaking through the night. Freezing now, she would have given anything for the lumpy brown coat she had rejected for the lace. If she hadn't been so romantically minded she wouldn't have got herself in this situation in the first place. She was determined, in fact this was her first move, to work on that and yet she had already sunk into old habits. She cursed herself silently, shivering in the thin dress.
Aveline tried to move the raft onwards but the stick she was using was heavy and thick and it was lready pressing deep into her skin. She was beginning to become very frustrated and cold and she was only a hundred feet from the bank. The bottom of her dress was already growing heavy with water and she'd grown numb with cold. Maybe people could become accustomed to this numb feeling. But she didn't want to. It wasn't right and if she could only push herself to the other side of the river then maybe she would never have to feel this way again. The further out she went, the stronger she felt, though her legs were paralyzed with cold. Her heart was pumping, and she was excited! Excited for once, it had been so long. The last time she felt like this was with him...but she didn't want to think about that right now.
She didn't want to think about it, not because it was painful, but because of the anticipation it was already beginning to create in her small breast. She had told him to meet her, by the felled trees on the other side of the lake. But Aveline hadn't heard from him. Not for days, not for a whole week. It didn't really matter, she thought, she would go either way. She knew, she knew deep down he would be there. Because he loved her. He loved her like she loved him, without that horrible numb feeling. When he had taken her in his arms and kissed her, it had been...well she was losing her breath and she needed that. Not now she thought, you must not think about this now. She pushed the stick deep into the water and moved onwards. There was no time to think about it and she needed all the energy she had. The cold was seeping into her arms and she was only a little way across the lake. She figured that once she got the the middle she would just drift to the shore. She hoped she was right.
"Row, Row, Row your boat gently down the stream" she began to sing to herself. It felt better than nothing and she pushed her stick in time to the words. Her voice sounded swallowed in the lake air. The sound moved slightly beyond her mouth and then it was if it was sucked back in. She had moved so far out she could no longer see the bank and she was starting to feel a little scared. There was no turning back now, she reckoned she was almost in the middle of the lake. It was rippling under her noisily and bitterly as if gossiping to itself about her indiscrepancies. Her soft bed, she had left it for this. She could no longer even feel the water lap against her sides though she knew it was there. Maybe that's what it felt like to drown. Just nothing and then nothing forever. Her reflection in the river was barely recognisable. A washed out face with no features, her gown stuck to her like a corpse in the water. She looked faded by the moons icy light. She had reached the middle, she knew it and she collapsed onto the boards in exhaustion. "If you are merciful lake," she gasped, "take me to the shore and make it swift"
She was feeling almost drunk, the raft was lulling her to sleep but she held on and tried to stay awake. Above her the stars were stronger and clearer than she had ever seen. But then, she had never seen them from the middle of the lake. How funny it is, she thought, that people spent so much of their time under artificial rooves. The air felt so nice, though it was cold and harsh. It felt real. This far away from her house, she had almost forgotten about that awful man. The one her father had brought home and his itchy moustache that tickled her lip. He had told her that she had to marry him, that it was the right thing to do. Why did people measure their lives up to a right and wrong that had been made by people with just as much knowledge of the world as them, of meaning and importance. Suddenly the raft began to bang up against things and she felt resistance underneath. She was coming up against the shore.
The water was getting shallow and she dipped her frozen feet back in. There wasn't much of a difference in temperature. Soon she was able to put her whole leg in and stand up. She could barely move from cold and she pushed the raft into the shore slowly and stiffly. Water fell off her clothes in great streams and they wrapped around her as if clinging to the last warmth they could find. She stumbled onto soil, how good it felt under her feet! She almost fell over from the shock of it, but it was no warmer than the water. She sat down on a felled tree and waited. He wasn't there. He wasn't there. Where was he? Surely he was coming. Yes, he had to be coming. She knew it. But she was crying anyway. It wasn't because he wasn't coming. He was, but oh she was so tired and cold.
She knew he would come. It was just taking him...he had just got stuck or something. He would be there, he loved her. She knew. She could no longer feel her breathing or her heart beating or her heart aching because it was. It was aching for him and she wished he would get there. She lay down. Just for a second she thought. She would just close her eyes for a second and he would be there to take her away. And she felt warm. Warm for the first time since she left the first shore. And it wasn't just because sleep felt so good, but because she knew he loved her. She knew. It felt so good to finally sleep. She shut her eyes. She felt the numbness coming over her. Just go to sleep she thought, go to sleep.